Design, Manufacturing & Engineering ManagementIbrahim Ali

PhD Researcher in the area of Supply Chain Management

Since I was introduced to BBC World Service when I was a teenager, the curiosity to learn more about new things, people, place, events and cultures have always been with me. So when it was time to choose where I wanted to go for my PhD, it wasn’t difficult to choose Glasgow – "The Dear Green Place".

Why Study a PhD

Studying a PhD for me was driven by my passion for research and my lecturing job.

During my Masters studies, I got interested in supply chain risk management. At the same time, I stumbled on a book by Manuel Castells - “The Rise of the Network Society”. After reading briefly about societies and how they share information, I thought it would be interesting for me to do a PhD investigating Social Relationships and Supply Chain Risk Information Sharing.

At first, I didn’t know if  the University of Strathclyde offered PhD’s in Supply Chain, but after sending an enquiry email to the admission office, they responded and asked me to send in my proposal.

At this stage, I already had an admission offer from my previous University in London, but I wanted to try the University of Strathclyde because the ranking was impressive and the living expenses in Glasgow were far less compared to London.

Shortly after my enquiry from the admissions office, I received a reply that there was an academic that wanted to interview me. The skype interview was centred on my research proposal – particularly on my understanding of the problem and the research area. At the end of the interview, the interviewer who is now my first supervisor - Dr Ian Whitfield - asked if I had any questions and I replied, “when do I start”?

A few days later I was offered a position.

The PhD itself has been brilliant, it has even allowed me to travel, including a trip to the Euroma Conference with Freddie, a PhD colleague and Professor Monika Mohring, a Strathclyde alumna.


Moving from Nigeria to Scotland

Moving from Nigeria to Scotland especially for a PhD required me to make realistic plans and preparation as the average time for a PhD is three to four years. As part of this preparation I had to plan out if and how my family would be able to join me in Scotland.

Before leaving Nigeria, I was fortunate enough to meet someone (at the Petroleum Technology Development Fund building in Nigeria) who had completed his masters in Strathclyde and was about to start a PhD. He passed my contact details on to another student of the University of Strathclyde who was in Glasgow at that time. Thankfully we communicated and I was able to stay in his house for a week when I initially moved to Glasgow.

In the first few days in Glasgow one of the main differences that I found was the transport system is much different from what I was used to in London. There are far fewer subway trains in the network and you don’t use a payment system like Oyster cards, instead you can buy travel cards or pay as you go.  To no surprise, I boarded the wrong buses a couple of times at the start!

One thing I chose to do before coming to Glasgow, as part of my research, was to search the internet to find out any dos and don’t’s for Scotland. This was necessary because I knew that every country has its own cultural and sometimes legal differences that one must know when travelling to other countries, to ensure I was well-informed and could best fit in.

I found out though that actually Scotland is very similar to London and the rest of the UK, just on a smaller scale. My family and I love it here!


Studying in Glasgow

Studying in Glasgow is great fun!

So many of the people are genuinely friendly and want to assist you.

The Glaswegian accent is not what I expected due to the fact that they speak fast and use lots of slangs. At the beginning it was quite challenging to have a long conversation especially when the discussion is outside your usually academic discussions. But as a PhD researcher I am surrounded by peers from all around the world, so I am introduced to many languages and accents!

Overall, I found a very diverse international community in Glasgow with shops and food for all nationalities at various locations in the city. We have a Nigerian community in Glasgow and we got together last year in Glasgow Green to celebrate Eid Kabir.

Also, the cost of living is affordable. I was able to get affordable accommodation 20 minutes away from the University. Like all areas in Glasgow, I have all of the facilities needed for my family to settle and blend in.

One of my favourite attractions in the area is a market called the Blochairn market. The market is similar to a market set up back in Nigeria where we buy both fruits and household items – importantly there are no price tags, so you can grab yourself a bargain and get a good deal. Which is brilliant as it is both fun and useful and helpful to keep costs lower as a PhD student. Here's a photo of me at the market!


DMEM community

One decision I am so glad I made was choosing to study my PhD in DMEM.

This is because coming from the field of Business and finding myself in the midst of engineers was first strange, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that it broadens my world view. Whilst I am researching in the field of supply chain management, there are other researchers in the fields of design or manufacture engineering.

Because of this I got to know and appreciate the engineers problem-solving approaches and tools. We chat about our research while we are in the PhD student kitchen and at other departmental social events. I also get to know more about their research during the department poster review for researchers.

Furthermore, apart from the support and guidance I receive from my peers, the informal discussions I have with researchers and my supervisor in DMEM usually provide me with new ideas which I had never thought about, enabling me to develop both myself and my research.

I've made lots of brilliant friends through both the staff and my peers.


In all, I found my PhD, the department of DMEM and Glasgow an exciting adventure.

I am learning every day, meeting new people and understanding new things that I can share with others within and outside of my PhD programme.

One important takeaway from my PhD is that I am here to add valuable and new knowledge to academic discussion in my field of study. I can't be completely wrong or right and I need to accept that some ideas may be of less value in a particular context but I am open to new ideas and excited about what the future holds.


Ibrahim Ali


Found out more information about studying a PhD in our department through this link.